Day: January 9, 2009

Travel Books, the classifieds of trade publishing

Eoin Purcell

Clouds in Coffee
One of the first signs of the collapse of newspaper franchises was the expansion of listing & selling services like craigslist (in Ireland craigslist never got off the ground because of homegrown success, DAFT) and ebay.

Before big business started to drive online ads, small time folks like you and me realised that apartments could be rented, books sold and collectors editions found much more efficiently online than through the pages of a newspaper.

Travel Books Are Classifieds (kinda)
Well I’ve always thought of travel books as the kind of things that will be one of the first real `signs of trade books facing change. Which is why I was intrigued by the news in The Bookseller today that sales in the travel genre were down:

Book sales for the travel genre have been hit hard by the financial crisis, with Nielsen BookScan figures revealing an 8.7% drop by value on last year’s total.

The most revealing paragraph in the story is this one:

Although the total genre is down 8.7% in revenue terms, travel and holiday guides themselves are down only 4.8% in volume. The genres worst hit in 2008 were road atlases and street plans, which suffered year-on-year losses of 12.6% and 19.6% by value.

The TomTom and the Garmin are killing books that offer a service that is better delivered through a digital means.

There is another factor though and the article touches on it too:

the “where to stay, eat and drink” sub-genre is down 20.9% in terms of value and the rise in popularity of internet websites that provide this type of information was partially blamed for this.

BLAMED FOR THIS seems a bit harsh to me. They are the explanation but they are hardly to blame. Consumers have figured out they can access this information much more easily online and as mobile internet becomes a more pleasant experience the demand for online travel information will grow and become even more useful as the power of GPS & Location software offers instant advice.

And where does this leave us?
To some extent I feel like I am stating the obvious. There is still a role for publishers and professional content creators in this. Trusted brands will still retain caché and there is absolutely no reason why they cannot thrive on the internet and build communities around travel like Boo is trying to.

Lonely Planet for instance is making itself into a much more digital brand under BBC guidance and its pretty experienced new chief Matthew Goldberg. Look at their frontpage, it is almost devoid of books! I think that is interesting.

Ah, the dream of FUNCTIONING mobile internet with real information, it WILL happen one day you know!
And not that far away either,
Eoin